Jun. 29—SOMERSET — For the first time in two years, Somerset County has a recycling program coordinator.
But Somerset County officials said it's just a first step toward deciding what the county's program will offer — a process that will take time and research, President Commissioner Gerald Walker said.
Somerset County native Erin Walker of Wilmington, North Carolina, was picked to take over the post at a salary of $28,000.
"I think we're opening a new book on the recycling program," Gerald Walker said. "And Erin will help guide us toward determining what that program will look like."
The President Commissioner said he and Erin Walker just met this month and are not related.
She'll take over a program that is, in essence, being restarted from scratch.
It has been more than a year since overhead costs and dwindling recycling material revenues prompted the county to eliminate its drop-off collection program.
The move to hire Walker doesn't change that decision, board members said.
But it does move the county one step closer to other types of offerings, Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes said.
Special, dedicated collection days for specific goods are envisioned.
The board and county planning commission also hope to increase outreach to better educate people about the benefits of recycling, Tokar-Ickes said.
That's where the program's new coordinator is positioned to make a difference, she added.
While Erin Walker has a deep interest in recycling, her background is in education — with a focus on children, Tokar-Ickes said.
And educating youth about recycling's importance and its impact on the environment can pay dividends once they become adults, she said.
Commissioner Colleen Dawson said the planning commission and Human Resources department spent a year searching for someone to fill the position, noting that it became a challenge to find someone with a background in the field.
Planning Commission Director Brad Zearfoss said his organization, which oversees the program, will work with the new coordinator to study program options that might fit — such as a centralized collection site — to explore what might work for residents and businesses at a cost the county can afford.
"There isn't going to be an immediate change because its going to take time to research and develop this (program)," Dawson said. "It's going to take time."